Sunday, May 16, 2021

A Mid-May Sunday Salon

Hello, friends. It's Sunday again and time for another weekly update. Life continues to move slowly toward normalcy. Last week I went into a store and tried on clothes! It seems so strange to think of that as being a big deal, but it sure felt like one to me. I also walked into the grocery store yesterday for just a few things... rather than with a detailed list for a week's worth of carefully planned meals. Finally, we ate at restaurants (outdoors) twice. Those little things all made me ridiculously happy.

As I'm sure you're well aware, the CDC dropped their mask recommendation for vaccinated people... though there is no way to verify who is actually vaccinated. Our governor even took preemptive action to make it illegal to ask for proof of vaccination. BUT, I was heartened to see nearly everyone still masked in the grocery stores, clothing stores, and restaurants I visited. Either next to nobody has been vaccinated or, more likely, they do not feel comfortable with the new guidelines. These are strange times...

Read last week//

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

My second historical fiction this month was a coming-of-age story set in post WWII Japan. It follows Noriko, the illegitimate child of a Japanese aristocrat and an African-American soldier, for decades as she comes to terms with her heritage and tries to find her place in the world. 

I enjoy reading about this time period in Japan and quickly found myself immersed in Nori's story. I flew through this 450-page debut novel in just a few days and will be passing it along to my mother and sister. A solid 4-star read! 

by Deesha Philyaw, narrated by Janina Edwards

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church's double standards and their own needs and passions.

I heard about this collection of stories from the Novel Pairings podcast. They strongly recommended listening and that was definitely the right choice. The narration was fabulous and made the stories feel even more real and often raw. I liked this four hour listen, but not quite as much as most other reviewers. I borrowed it from the library via hoopla. 

Sampled but wasn't feeling//

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

From the indie rockstar of Japanese Breakfast fame, and author of the viral 2018 New Yorker essay that shares the title of this book, an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.

This month's Shelf Subscription... I read the first three chapters/essays of this memoir, including the wonderful title essay. It's not what I feel like reading right now, but I do plan to read it later.

Current listening//

Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner, narrated by Deborah Burgess

Purchased recently as an audible daily deal, I finally started listening today on my morning walk. Just as I'd hoped, it immediately reminded me of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb... a favorite from 2019.

Ready to start//

Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

I picked up this library hold yesterday just moments before closing. Heiny's last novel, Standard Deviation, was such an enjoyable read and my hopes for her latest are high. I'll get started later tonight or tomorrow.


I watched season one (three episodes) of The Bletchley Circle on amazon prime video last week.  It's about a group of friends who worked at Bletchley Park breaking code during WWII and reunite in the early 1950s to track down a serial killer. I plan to continue with season two.

In the kitchen//

It's been pretty warm lately... the time of year I start thinking about salads for dinner. Last week we had Katie Workman's Chinese Chicken Salad. I used romaine lettuce instead of Napa cabbage, left out the red onion, and opted for the convenience of a rotisserie chicken. The homemade Soy Sesame dressing was really good and we had leftovers for a couple of lunches. Tip: toss only the salad you will use right away with dressing and add the crunchy lo mein noodles prior to serving.

We're taking dinner over to my FIL later this afternoon. For dessert I made Taste of Home's   Jumbleberry Crumble. Loaded with strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, it was an early pandemic favorite. We haven't had it since our daughters from NYC were with us last spring.summer. I hope he likes it, too!

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Sunday, May 9, 2021

The Sunday Salon: Mother's Day Edition

It's Mother's Day and as we wrap up another beautiful week in southwest Florida, it's starting to feel more like summer. Daytime highs are flirting with 90 degrees and we had two nights with an overnight low  of 80! On the mainland temperatures did creep into the 90s with lows in the 70s, but it's more temperate on the islands... and there's almost always a nice breeze!

Recent reading//

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

This is a book I finished at the end of April, but never talked about here. Two things  to know- it really packs a punch and it's difficult to read at times. [Trigger warning for sexual abuse] Infinite Country  is a short, impactful read about one family's immigration experience... their struggles and hardships in both the U.S. and Colombia, and the separations that result. 

This slim novel does much more than simply tell a good story. It caused me to think more deeply about the issue of immigration and to look at it from a different perspective. And to me, that's the difference between a good book and great book.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

I don't read much historical fiction these days, but really enjoyed this story. It's about three very different women who form an unlikely friendship while working at Bletchley Park during WWII. I did a read/listen combination and was always eager to return to their story. I still can't believe it was over 600 pages long! The Rose Code  was a perfect follow-up to my recent nonfiction reading of The Splendid and the Vile  and Code Girls.

Today I learned about a television show on Amazon Prime called The Bletchley Circle.... hope to watch the first episode this evening.

Current reading//

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

My current read is a book I picked up on Independent Bookstore Day. Goodreads describes this debut novel as "a sweeping, heartrending coming-of-age novel about a young woman's quest for acceptance in post–World War II Japan."  It's another long-ish book (450 pages), but the pages turn quickly. I started it Friday evening and am halfway through already... enjoying it very much!

In the kitchen//

It was all about simplicity this week.... I wasn't particularly motivated or inspired. For Cinco de Mayo we had a Chicken Taco Casserole from Easy Family Recipes. I used a rotisserie chicken and it took literally 10 minutes to prepare. Publix had Rancho de Gloria Margarita Wine Cocktail on BOGO sale (who knew there was such a thing?) so it really was a celebration!

Last night we had an old favorite, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Orange Marmalade Glaze, for the first time in ages. I used a low-sugar orange marmalade and marinated it for just under two hours.

The kitchen is closed today for Mother's Day. We're taking dinner over to my FIL a little later and he has requested pizza... hooray!

A technical question//

Last week I removed the "subscribe by email" gadget from my blog. Blogger will end this option next month and I'm not quite sure how to handle it. Blogger friends, what will you do with email subscribers? 

From my camera//

Walking back from the beach last night, just a few minutes past sunset, a couple of birds swooped down close to our heads then quickly retreated to a branch above. I was surprised to discover two Eastern Screech Owls... you have to look closely for the second one. It's on the same branch, lower right. Very cool!

How was your week? What are you reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Monday, May 3, 2021

April Reading Wrap-Up and a Look Ahead to May

After a very long March, April seemed to fly. We finally took a few small steps toward normalcy, and I read some really good books... only four, but all were four stars or better.

April highlights include//
  • getting my second vaccine and reaching full immunity!
  • several visits from fully-vaccinated family members
  • haircut and highlights... at last
  • a trip to the bookstore
  • a meal outdoors at a restaurant
  • an end-of-season neighborhood gathering
  • sunsets at the beach and the Pink Supermoon

Books Read in April//

I read three of the four books from my tentative April list. Instead of the April Shelf Subscription, which turned out to be Libertie  by Kaitlyn Greenidge, I opted for a library hold. 

My favorite April book//

May Reading Possibilities//

historical fiction: The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (in progress)

classic: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (for T Book Club in June)

nonfiction: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (unless I need a break from this time period)

new fiction: the May Shelf Subscription selection... it ships tomorrow!

How did your April reading go? What was your favorite book last month?

Pink Supermoon
April 26, 2021

Sunday, April 25, 2021

A Journey Toward Normalcy

It's been a big week... I reached full immunity Thursday. To celebrate, my SIL treated me to an iced coffee drink at our favorite cafe. We sat outside on their patio and soaked up the late afternoon sunshine. What a treat! Next, we browsed a local art gallery and planned a second outing, which happened yesterday. We visited two local independent bookstores, had lunch outdoors at a restaurant, and checked out a couple of new shops. It feels like life is starting to return to normal!

Finished this week//

This book was quite an undertaking, but well worth the time and effort. After hitting the 30% mark, I could hardly put it down. It focuses on Churchill's first year as Prime Minister. Larson offers an interesting look at the political landscape, the resiliency of Londoners during the Blitz, and domestic life of the Churchill family. As usual with nonfiction, I made it a read/listen combination and enjoyed John Lee's narration on my morning walks. 

After avoiding the topic for years, it looks like I'm on a WWII kick. The Splendid and the Vile  was a good follow-up to Code GirlsYesterday I  picked up a copy of Kate Quinn's new novel, The Rose Code  and I'm also wondering about adding Larson's In the Garden of Beasts  to my tbr list. Have any of you read it? 

Current Reading//

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

This short (under 200 pages) book pulled me in at the first sentence; "It was her idea to tie up the nun." It's a novel about a family that finds itself split between two countries, Colombia and the US, and their struggle to reunite. I'm about a third of the way in and it's very good so far.


We watched Ken Burn's Hemingway documentary on PBS last week. I really enjoyed it, but found the last two episodes rather depressing. As others have said, the first (of three) episode was by far the most enjoyable.

In the kitchen//

It was another mostly uninspired week in the kitchen. I prepared recipes from our regular rotation and made Laurie Colwin's Gingerbread for a Friday treat.

Now that I'm fully vaccinated, I look forward to visiting the first Trader Joe's in our area and returning to Whole Foods for a few specialty items.

The week ahead//

I'm finally getting a haircut! And highlights, too. Only 48 hours to go. It also seems strange to  have two social events on the calendar this week. Both are small groups and outdoors, but I'm still a little apprehensive.

How was your week? What have you been reading?

Independent Bookstore Day haul!

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz
It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Sunday, April 18, 2021

A Short Sunday Salon: April 18, 2021

 Hello, friends. Today's post will be short... there's just not much to report this week. Twin A flew back to NYC after nearly a month of working remotely. It was such a treat to have her here with us. Thankfully, she was able to receive her first dose of the vaccine the following day. Now all three of our daughters are partially vaccinated - that's progress.

I'm practically counting down the hours until I reach full immunization  - 96 to go!! 

Current reading//

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

This is a great read! The beginning was good but, around the 30% mark, it became enthralling. I'm listening to John Lee's narration on my morning walks, and then spending my afternoon reading time with the ebook. (I decided not to start a novel.) Maybe I'll finish by next weekend.


This 2017 film was excellent. Guess I'm going for total immersion...

In the kitchen//

I'm still cooking from my newest cookbook, Half Baked Harvest Super Simple  by Tieghan Gerard. Last night I made Lemon Butter Cod with Orzo and Asparagus, a simple and flavorful one skillet meal. Instead of cod, I used local tripletail. The fillets are thinner than cod and it tastes similar to snapper. Delicious!

The week ahead//

The T Book Club presents its discussion of The Talented Mr. Ripley  by Patricia Highsmith on Thursday. This is the last book in the four-part series featuring American Classics. As far as I can tell, it has been a success. I'm wondering if they will host another series... perhaps in the fall? You can still sign up if you're interested. I finished the book earlier this month and plan to watch the 1999 film before the discussion, too.

Saturday is Independent Bookstore Day! I'm doubly excited because I will be able to visit our local indie for the first time in ages, plus they have moved to a beautiful new location that I can't wait to checkout.

The rest of the week should be pretty routine... morning walks, assorted projects and chores, cooking, sunset beach-sitting. No complaints here!

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz
It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Sunday Salon: April 11, 2021

Whew, it's been a busy couple of weeks around here. We celebrated Easter, our twin daughters' birthday, and enjoyed spending time with my sister and brother-in-law during there recent visit. 

The big news is that I got my second vaccination on Thursday! Like last time, we had to drive two hours each way, but it was a nice day for a road trip... and so worth it. My side effects were worse this time - fever and chills, muscle aches, and headache. I felt fine after 24 hours. In two weeks I can finally go to the hair salon. Maybe I'll get a pedicure too! 

Recent reading//

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

I loved this book - a solid 5 star read!  I hope to post a review later this week.

by Sayaka Murata,  narrated by Nancy Wu

What a wonderful audiobook! This book has been on my wish list for a while, but Diane's recent review convinced me to listen now. This short (just over 3 hours) audio is included with an audible plus membership and is also available on hoopla. If you enjoy books with quirky characters (like Eleanor Oliphant) this belongs on your list.

by Patricia Highsmith

This is the next selection for The T Book Club, sponsored by The New York Times Style Magazine. I wasn't feeling it last time I posted, but your encouraging comments and the fact that my daughter is currently reading a Highsmith novel, made me change my mind.

Tom Ripley is a classic sociopath (definitely not my typical reading fare) and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. What a fascinating character! I also enjoyed the Italian setting. But, I didn't like the way the book made me feel...  too tense, too much on edge. Ultimately, that means Highsmith succeeded. I'm not sure whether I'll read the other Ripley novels, but you never know.

This was a read/listen combination for me and I highly recommend the audio version narrated by Kevin Kenerly.  The book discussion, led by writer Edmund White, will take place on 4/22. Click on the T Book Club link to join in. 

Current reading//

My recent reading of Code Girls  inspired me to seek out more WWII nonfiction, so here we are with Erik Larson's latest. This is another read/listen combination for me. I started the audio (narrated by John Lee and just under 18 hours long) on my walk yesterday. It's very interesting so far, but will take a while to finish.

National Poetry Month//

April is National Poetry Month. Thanks to Iliana, I signed up for Poem-A-Day and now receive a poem in my inbox each morning.

In the kitchen//

Between Easter, birthday celebrations, and family visits, I haven't tried many new recipes. Instead, the focus has been on traditional menus and family favorites with a few nights of take-out added to the mix.

One night we had leftover steak, so I made Sheet Pan Steak Fajitas from The Busy Baker. Since the steak was already cooked, I only warmed it for the last few minutes and then tossed it with the peppers and onions before serving. This was a big hit with the family and I can see trying it with shrimp or chicken, too.

We grilled boneless chicken breasts one night using this Honey Mustard Chicken recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod. The combination of whole grain and dijon mustard is delicious combined with honey. The acid from the lemon juice "helps break down the chicken, allowing the marinade’s oil and spices to infuse the meat with flavor and moisture." This is a keeper!

Today I made Morning Maple Muffins from Taste of Home. We all enjoyed one, then I sent the rest over to my FIL and SIL.

The week ahead//

We don't have a lot planned this week - a routine doctor's appointment, early morning grocery shopping, and wine on the beach with friends. Twin A will fly back to NYC on Friday... how can her month here be ending already??

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz
It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Friday, April 2, 2021

March Reading Wrap-Up and A Look Ahead

 Is it just me, or does is seem like March lasted for a very long time?  Highlights here included vaccinations (one for me, one for Twin B, and two for my husband!), a visit from my brother and his fiancĂ©, Twin A arriving for an extended visit, experimenting with my new air fryer, trying several new recipes, and, of course, beautiful sunsets on the beach.

I ended up reading six books in March, including three of the four from my tentative list. I started the month with two impulse reads (always fun), followed by the new Shelf Subscription (Brood didn't work for me at all), and then dove into nonfiction for Women's History Month. I moved on to a backlist title from an author I've previously enjoyed and finished the month with a book I'd hoped to get to last year. 

Books Read in March//

Young  Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin  3.5/5

The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi  3/5

Brood by Jackie Polzin  

Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy  5/5

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller  3.5/5

Writers & Lovers by Lily King (no review yet)  5/5

My favorite books of March//

Tentative Reading for April//

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson (nonfiction)

April Shelf Subscription selection  (new fiction, ships 4/6)

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (T Book Club, American classic - I'm not in the mood for this now. We'll see how I feel in a week or two. Have you read it?)

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (translated fiction, 2018)

How did your March reading go? What was your favorite book last month?

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Sunday Salon: Vaccinations and Visitors

 It's been another beautiful week here in Florida... warmer temperatures, slightly higher humidity, and a gorgeous sea breeze. Our daughter arrived on Monday and worked from our condo all week, but joined us for outdoor dinners at the house. It's so good to spend time with her!

Friday was the BIG DAY. Two weeks after his second shot, my husband reached full immunity! He celebrated by going to the local grocery store midday (rather than our usual 7AM) to purchase fresh seafood for dinner and fresh cut steaks for the weekend. Somehow a bag of potato chips and container of ice cream also found a way into his bag. It's the little things! Two weeks until my second dose...

Finished this week//

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

This was the novel my mother and sister both read last month. The had very different reactions (Mom hated it, but my sister liked it) and they wanted me to weigh in. It was on my wish list anyway, so this seemed like a good time to pick it up.

Bitter Orange  features a woman on her deathbed reflecting back to the summer of 1969, a pivotal time spent in a ruinous English manor house. She is there to compose a report on the grounds and gardens for the absent new owner, while another young couple catalogs the contents of the buildings. The book unfolds very slowly, with long, detailed descriptions, and is quite well-written. It has a Gothic feel and there is a near constant sense of impending doom or tragedy. None of the characters are particularly likable, yet they're all interesting with complicated backstories...and complicated relationships with each other. I think fans of Daphne DuMaurier are particularly likely to enjoy this novel.

I borrowed the ebook from the library, then used an audible credit for the audiobook. It turned out that the audio narrated by Bianca Amato added much to my overall enjoyment, so I recommend going that route if you can. 

Current reading//

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

This book seemed to be on all the lists at the end 2020, but I'm just getting to it now. I'm 40% in and enjoying it even more than expected!

In the kitchen//

This was a very good week in the kitchen! I had three new recipe successes,  two of them from Half Baked Harvest Super Simple.  Thai Basil Beef with Peanut Salsa was a real crowd pleaser, and was actually super simple to prepare. The leftovers were just as tasty. A food blogger included the recipe in her review post here.

The other winner was Walnut Crusted Chicken with Honey and Brie. My daughters especially loved it and I liked that you can prep the chicken ahead, then all you have to do at dinnertime is pop it in the oven. Again, I couldn't find the recipe online, but if you search for it on Pinterest, you will find a photo of the cookbook page.

Finally, these Pecan Carrot Muffins from the Simply Delicious  blog were just amazing! My FIL, who isn't eating much of anything lately, ate two. I'll make them again for Easter brunch.

The week ahead//

Our daughter finishes her quarantine this evening and will move from our condo (affectionately known lately as "the holding tank") to the house. 

My sister and brother-in-law, who are both fully vaccinated, arrive Friday night to spend their spring vacation at our condo. We should be able to spend plenty of time with them outdoors at the beach or on our lanai. I can't wait to see them!

How was your week? What have you been reading?

The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz
It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date


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